Although we may admire older cars' ability to "hold together" in a collision, it's now generally accepted that it's safer for vehicles to feature impact-absorbing crumple zones. With that in mind, shouldn't football helmets also be safer if they're able to give a little when whacked? That's what Riddell's new SpeedFlex helmet does ... along with a few other interesting things.
Just to be clear, the SpeedFlex doesn't actually crumple under pressure. It does, however, have a built-in hinged rubber-padded panel located on the front near the top. In head-on collisions with other players (or the ground), this panel gives by up to a quarter of an inch (6 mm), helping to absorb the impact.
Additionally, the stainless steel face mask takes up some of the force via its flexible design, plus it attaches to the helmet at a total of four points on either side of the face, instead of at a single point above it. This arrangement allows the impact force to be more evenly distributed throughout the helmet, instead of being concentrated near the player's forehead.
The mask can be quickly removed and reinstalled as needed, simply by pressing down on its four fasteners.
The SpeedFlex can also be equipped with Riddell's InSite Impact Response System. This incorporates sensors located in the helmet's lining, that detect significant impacts to the wearer's head. When these occur, the system wirelessly notifies sideline staff, so they can call the player in to check them over.
Other features include a ratchet-style chinstrap attachment system (as opposed to the usual less-secure buckles or snaps), extensions on the sides to protect the mandible from side impacts, and five liner pads that are inflated once the helmet is put on, to ensure a snug fit.
Riddell's SpeedFlex helmet is widely available as of this month, and is reportedly already in use by some NFL and collegiate players. There's more information in the following video.
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